Monday, July 14, 2008

All The Boys I've Loved - The One That Never Was

There’s some random commercial on television nowadays for some wrinkle cream, or maybe its for some prescription medication, you know, those ads with a list of about 50 side effects that sound about a trillion times worse than the ailment its supposed to treat? Whatever, I’m so off topic alright, it’s not even funny. The point is this, the catch phrase for that ad is “Time is a thief”. I heard that ad the other morning, as I was getting ready for work, and thought “wow, that’s a great quote”. Little did I know how appropriate it would be for me on that very same day.

See, later that afternoon I had lunch with an old college buddy of mine. Let me tell you, time is not just a thief, it’s a freakin’ thug too. It beats you up, spits you out, and leaves you feeling worn down, used up, and exhausted. And you don’t even really realize how much time has taken from you until you sit down for a few moments (or an hour) with a piece of your past, and realize how much has changed.

But time is also a little bit like that rich uncle you didn’t know you had, until he dies and leaves you a “little something” in his will. (Side note: if I have any rich uncles hiding out there, I could use that little something right now…I’m just sayin’). But you know, it’s not until that moment that you realize how good time has been to you too. All the little gifts it’s provided for you without your noticing it, over the years, that have now made you the person you are today.

It’s a two sided coin, time is.

So, back to my lunch, because, after all, you want to know about The One That Never Was. We’ll call him Truck. (Man, how I wish I could tell you why I come up with these names…I’m so freakin’ witty! But revealing my genius would reveal their real names and/or identities at times, and that would defeat the whole point, would it?)

I met Truck my freshman year in college. He was, I think, a Junior at the time, but he was on the part time 7 or 8 year plan, so don’t hold me to that. The University I went to was, at the time a working class, commuter school, so although some of us managed the 4 year plan, there were many others who took the longer path to graduation. Anyway, this is so not important, except to explain why Truck was there long before I came along, and long after I left. Moving on, I pretty much had an immediate crush on Truck. He was a great looking guy, a total flirt, and a little bit of a bad boy. A combination for trouble for a freshman girl from the suburbs, you know?
In my four years of college, Truck and I had a love-hate relationship so strong that it’s a wonder sometimes we didn’t either kill each other, or devour each other. Truck was a bit of a player, and always just a little out of reach, however. And I was having a really good time in college to be wasting all my energy pining for him. So, we struck up a pretty strong friendship, even if he did constantly break my heart by leading me on, then letting me down. He would flirt constantly, make it seem as if I was THE girl for him, but never follow through. So, I would date somebody else, and trust me, in college, there were a whole lot of somebody else’s showing interest, including a lot of his friends. And whenever I did, he would tell me that he was so much better for me than this other guy. And yet, whenever that relationship ended (which inevitably, they all did), he’d back off again. It was infuriating.

There was also a certain amount of “mystery” to him, because he would never fully divulge his “life” to me. I never knew if he was dating someone or not, I never had any idea even the type of girls he was into. That part was always very guarded with him. I’d find out he was with someone at the most inopportune of moments (such as on Valentine’s day, when I was expecting something from him, and saw him give it to someone else instead). At times, he’d bare his soul to me, tell me he cared too much about me to be with me, because I was a good girl, and he…well, wasn’t. Other times, he’d play the bad boy role, telling me he had no idea why I would think we were ever going to be more than just friends. LOVE/HATE.

I tell you now, looking back, that I realize how he played me in those years, but I’m grateful that although completely smitten with him, I never held back from getting involved with other guys. I always figured if he made a move, I’d deal with it then, but I wasn’t going to wait around for him to do it.

The funny thing was that we were so inseparable that everyone thought we were a couple. The rumors even got ugly at times. I was called some not so “good girl” names, and even almost came to blows with more than one girl over my friendship with him, because they were insanely jealous, and I…well, I had a temper in those days. The kicker is, Truck and I? We never even kissed after all that back and forth. Not once…not to this day.

This on/off game continued on even after college. We always kept in touch, and whenever I’d be in a relationship, he’d call me and tell me to dump the guy, that he was so much more perfect for me. But if I told him my relationship had ended, he’d disappear for months at a time. By this time, however, I’d learned his game, and I’d lost all interest in ever pursuing anything besides our “unique” friendship.

So, when all the game playing was done, when he’d outgrown it too, our friendship remained. We’ve been friends for over ten years now, and I truly count him among one of my best friends, even if time, distance, and circumstances have changed the dynamic of our friendship.

We now speak on the phone a few times a year at the most. A few years ago, while in the midst of one of our “catch up sessions”, I learned he was getting married. I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. Again, with the mystery. Without divulging too many of the identifying details, let’s just say that my friends and I joke that his wife is my “doppelganger”, going as far as living in my hometown, where he now also lives.

In the last few years, our contact has lessened. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he is now married, and I’m the “single female friend”, and that’s been the cause of the fall of a lot of my strictly platonic friendships with a lot of my guy friends. I get it, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so sure I’d want my husband to have a “single female friend” either. And no, I wasn’t invited to the wedding, but again, I got that. But, we are still friends, and we do still speak on occasion.

Most recently, I sent him a text on his birthday. This started up a conversation, and we decided to have lunch. I hadn’t seen him in well over 5 years at this point, I think. So, this past week, we had lunch. After all that time, I’ll admit, in the beginning, it was a little awkward. After a quick hug hello, we were almost uncomfortable as strangers. He commented on how different I look, how he wouldn’t have recognized me on the street, and I’ll be honest, with my self-esteem being what it is these days, that comment bothered me probably more than it should have.

He, on the other hand, looked amazing. Better than he ever has, in fact. Why is it that men just get better with age, while we women…not so much?

However, after a few minutes of the awkward, we settled right into our old comfort zone. We chatted, we joked, and we laughed. We strolled down memory lane, sharing what we knew of our old friends’ whereabouts, and revisiting old tales. He too knew “The Bullet” pretty well, so we shared our shock about his turn of events. He too knew my buddy who went on the Bachelorette this season, so we laughed about that. He told me his wife is pregnant, I congratulated him. I told him Lil’ K is now 15 and how I’m struggling to be there and show her the positive influences she needs in her life. He commended me for it. We talked jobs, relationships, deaths. At one point we realized how different our topics of conversation are today from the old days. “Man, we’re getting old” we said.

I told him I want to meet his wife. I want to be able to visit in the hospital when the baby is born, and I obviously cannot do that if I’ve never met the woman. He promised it would happen. (I don’t believe it, but well, you never know).

We said our goodbyes, promised to get together again way before another five years go by.

And I went back to my office feeling a little sad for it all. See…Nostalgia has a way of kicking your ass. Lunch was so good, reminiscing so nice. But I yearned for the old days for a bit. I missed our good times, back in the day. I missed the ease our friendship used to have. I even missed the bits when he was insufferable. I was also feeling a little sad because it’s always been a shock to see him reach these milestones before me. He was the last guy you would have thought to settle down, and when I found out he was getting married, it was a shock to the system. BEFORE ME? How could that be? And now, a baby? BEFORE ME? It’s just strange.

Today, I’m over the sadness, I’m over the nostalgia. I’m simply glad we got together, had a chance to catch up, and that after all these years, are still great friends. He’ll always be “The One That Never Was”, but you know what? I’m okay with that, that’s how it was meant to be, I think.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

I have guy friends, and my husband has gal friends - neither of us minds, but one guy friend I was very close to, I miss terribly because he's now married and it slightly altered our friendship. It happens, but we do actually stay in touch. It's just hard to sustain the closeness in the same way - but I'm grateful we can still be as close as we are.

I love your two-sided coin view on Time. Very true, Karina. And I loved your tale of Truck!

Rebecca said...

I think pining for someone you don't get can be a good thing - it'll make you more grateful for the one you do get. But in any case it sounds like a wonderful friendship :)

Anonymous said...

Now you got me thinking about "that guy."
Oh geez was that a drama-rama.
Reread all the Dance posts last night - great stuff.
Waving at you from New York

PBNJM said...

I know people are different, but my husband has lots of single female friends, but then he wouldn't have married me if I wasn't ok with know JM.

Pamela said...

I should write how I ran into an old boyfriend on my 20th high school anniversary.

He had no teeth, his brain was fried, and I had no regrest. bwah!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Nicely expressed :) I miss my best guy friend from college (absolutely NO interest for more than friendship EVER on either of our parts--as far as know!) so very much and that's just because of distance as he's not married yet. Not that I know of anyway ;) But yes, I often wish I could back to those days, just in that respect, so I could hang out with him again :(